Freezing on Ice…


Yesterday I went with a couple of friends to ICE!  at National Harbor.   First there was a 7 minute instructional/safety video where we learnt we were about to enter a world of 9 degrees Fahrenheit,  how the sculptures were made and instructed not to touch or lick the ice.  We were then given bulky and very unflattering blue coats to put on over our own already bulky winter coats – talk about looking like the Michelin (wo)man!  I had my own “puffy” coat underneath….photo-1 copy

A woman offered to take a photo of the three of us  – one day someone will find this photo in isolation and wonder about the blue coats!   (not to mention the strange writing on the faces of 2 of the women).  MDG-1

It was a truly freezing, frozen world:     IMG_0273

ICE! was in a 15,000 sq foot custom built “igloo” which is kept at 9 degrees Fahrenheit.  Using 2 million pounds of ice some of the sculptures are made of colored ice blocks (which didn’t look like ice),  some sculptures are illuminated internally by some of the 1,400 specially designed LED tube lights and some of the ice is engineered to support everything.   IMG_0275

A group of master carvers from Harbin, China, spends nearly a month of 12-hour shifts inside a freezer transforming those two million pounds of ice.IMG_0274

Harbin is in Northeast China where the average winter temperature is only 2 degrees F and where the temperature has been known to drop to -36 F.  Apparently Harbin stays below freezing for half the year.  So, what does one do when surrounded by ice?   Well….  you spend those dark, frozen months learning to carve it.

As part of an Ice Lantern Festival, the carvers would cut blocks of ice out of the Songhua River,  make carvings and display them amongst intricately constructed ice lanterns.    In 1963, the Mayor of Harbin created a formal competition.       The displays were government-sponsored events and organized in public parks  and are still held today.

Sadly for any local would-be ice carvers the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers do not freeze enough to provide the huge chunks of ice needed to make anything decent.  So the display is made of ice made in an ice factory.  There are 3 types of ice used –

1. Clear, “crystal” ice which is the most difficult to make.    De-ionized water is used and it takes 3 days to freeze 45 gallons of water (which makes a 400lb ice block).  IMG_0285

2. White ice which looks like compacted snow – water is frozen quickly giving it a cloudy look.IMG_0277

3.  Colored ice –  made by adding food coloring during the freezing process.   The water has to be constantly stirred as the coloring is added, and as the block freezes, so that the color is consistent throughout the block (so it’s even when they make slices through the block).IMG_0284

The 400lb blocks of ice are delivered on pallets in 36 refrigerated trucks  – 2 trucks a day for nearly 3 weeks which is about as fast as the ice factory can make it.   The blocks are moved into place by forklift and the carvers get to work.

After slicing or carving a piece of ice an artisan sprinkles the surface to be bonded with “snow” . He pours water onto the piece and lifts it into position – at 9 degrees F ordinary water freezes very quickly, sticking one piece to another.

I really liked this one:  IMG_0281

Not really surprisingly none of us felt we needed the thrill of going down a 20-feet tall ice slide on our backs   IMG_0279

All that cold and ice made my bladder itch  –    so off to find the port-a-loo…IMG_0288a
These were no ordinary construction site port-a-loos!  IMG_0289There was even hot water! IMG_0292
The back of the trailer exit door didn’t have a handle which had me worried for a second: IMG_0293
We went for coffee at the Gaylord Resort Hotel which still had Christmas decorations up: IMG_0294It is an impressive looking hotel – all these rooms have balconies overlooking a sunlit courtyard :IMG_0297And glass elevator banks  –  IMG_0298Then we walked down to the water: IMG_0300And looked at the sculpture called  “The Awakening”   –  it would be difficult to get a photo of this without people unless one got up with the sunIMG_0304
The Awakening is a 70 foot giant struggling to free himself.  It is made up of 5 separate pieces and was created by J. Seward Johnson in 1980 and was originally installed at Hains Point.   It was dug up and moved to the National Harbor area in 2008 after the developer (The Peterson Companies) purchased it.  Little kids are climbing on his bearded face and into his mouth which is open in mid-scream.
Then it was time to go home via two stained glass mosaic panels by artist Cheryl Foster.   This one is titled Maryland’s Bounty Panel 1 Panel 1
and this one is Maryland’s Bounty Panel 2 Panel 2



This is what I see when I look down out of our bedroom window:

I see a lovely clean public sidewalk infront of our property and a nicely cleared path for us and the mailman to get to our door.     I see that our neighbours, on both sides,  are slack!!   And yes, they are all at home …..   This is all ice.

The DC Official Code 9-601 does require private property owners
to remove snow from the sidewalks abutting their space within 8 hours of
the end of the snowfall. The DC Official Code also states that if the
property owner does not remove the snow, the District will remove the
snow and sue the owner, through the Office of the Corporation Counsel,
for costs of snow removal and a $25 fine.

I guess $25 doesn't scare anyone!   But the thought of someone suing if they fall certainly scares me!

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Snow to Ice


This morning I looked out my window and watched people slide down my street.  We live on a hill – okay, it's more of a slope than a hill – but when covered in ice it might as well be a mountain. 

I saw a man hanging onto a fence while his feet continued away from him and watched a woman fall over twice in the space of 20 feet.  I watched our neighbour go to her car and struggle to get the door open.   I left her warming up her car while I cleaned my teeth and got dressed.  I returned to the window to watch her drive her car into the one in front of her and then not be able to reverse away because her wheels were spinning.  I watched her tiptoe back into her house.

It was at this point that I decided I would be deliberately late to work today.   I took a 2 hour delay hoping that the temperature would rise enough to melt some of the ice off – or that the city would treat our road and the neighbours would clean their sidewalks.   Wishful thinking on all counts!

I made it to the office and back home again without a fall though I did have a couple of scary slides.  I cancelled my Physical Therapy appointment because I was scared of the walk. 

The temperature warmed into the mid 30's during the afternoon -  ice melted – and tonight it is going to fall back into the 20's and so the rink will be back tomorrow morning! 

Last night it was snow:  

But by this morning ice had compressed the snow:    

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The last two winters have provided no measurable snow for DC  – might that change today?

Over the last month the weatherman has predicted snow a few times and then nothing happened but this morning there really are white flakes falling from the sky and sticking on the footpath and roads! 

I love the total "hush" which occurs when it snows -  I hate the trudging to and from work through it.

It is far, far preferable to ice though!  (oh look,  ice is forecast for this evening!).


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